Daily Archives: 06/03/2012

Australian history: kicking butt or the bottom line?

Nicholson cartoon of History Wars

‘History Wars’ by Nicholson, 23 September 2003

Is Australian history at universities in trouble?  Last week I came across a story about Australian History: neither fad nor fading which sets out to argue that Australian history is alive and kicking butt, at least at La Trobe University.  Or it does until you deconstruct the article, which is a little too defensive to be taken at face value:

While he admits Australian history may no longer be the most popular area with some of today’s students, La Trobe Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tim Murray says: ‘It is important for us as a nation that students have a good grasp of our history’.

Then on Saturday, I heard a discussion on ABC radio with 2 Australian historians, Marilyn Lake and Anna Clark which suggests a grimmer picture.  In the age of the bottom line, university courses with small enrolments don’t get taught, and Australian history courses are struggling to attract enough students to get listed.  If they aren’t taught, the next generation of Australian Arts graduates will be ignorant about their own history.  If undergraduate courses aren’t taught, postgraduates don’t want to research in the area, and Australian history dies as an academic discipline.  It’s a downward spiral. Continue reading

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